Trade Unions seek immediate action to reassure and support tens of thousands of workers facing lay-offs

18 Mar 2020

Speaking as the UK Government and Ni Executive consider their next steps to address the unfolding COVID-19 public health emergency, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said today:

“If the developments in the Republic of Ireland are anything to go by, we are looking at huge swathes of lay-offs over the next number of days and weeks. They have already commenced in the hospitality sector with significant announcements in the last 24 hours. With reduced consumer demand as the crisis bites further, we will see sound and viable businesses being forced to close their doors. 

"Some of them may not open again. The implications for workers affected will be grave. Add this to the fact that many workers may have to self-isolate, some will inevitably get sick, many will have to mind children when the schools close, as it is merely only a matter of time for this to happen. 

"The recent announcements by both the Chancellor and the executive are to be welcomed, but they will on their own not be enough. We need to ensure in as much as is possible that workers incomes are protected during this period.

"In many countries, governments, employers and unions are meeting daily to discuss the crisis and how we can together mitigate the worst for everyone. Some have come up with creative arrangements to protect workers incomes. The UK's current statutory sick pay arrangements of £94 per week are totally insufficient and do not approach the financial reality of family life in the UK. 

"Regrettably, and despite our calls for collective engagement with everyone around the table, this has not happened yet in Northern Ireland. The Executive needs to today set up a representative high level labour market committee bringing together both sides of the labour market, the trade union movement and employers representatives, so we can work together as allies in this struggle with an invisible, but lethal, enemy.”